Calif. county COs to postpone strike over working conditions at jail

County officials said they would continue to work with the union to prevent a strike

By Brianna Vaccari
The Fresno Bee

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. — The union that represents Fresno County correctional officers notified Fresno County Friday of plans to delay a strike until late June.

The strike delay comes one day after a Fresno County Superior Court judge issued a temporary injunction and limited the number of correctional officers who could go on strike to protect public health and safety.

The Fresno County Public Safety Association previously planned to begin a strike on Monday after months of labor negotiations with the county. The union argues the wage increases proposed by the county aren’t equitable, and low wages are resulting in understaffing and dangerous work conditions.

“Obviously, the association does not want to endanger the public as we are dedicated public servants who simply want to use our legally protected activity — a strike — to draw attention to the fact that we are paid 41% less than a similarly classified deputy,” union officials said in a news release Friday.

“The association would rather wait and have a meaningful strike with as many correctional officers as want to participate. We are trying to send a message,” union officials said. “The message is our members need equity adjustments.”

In a news release on Friday, county officials said any employees who participate in work stoppages, including “sickouts,” would be engaging in a “wildcat” strike, which is illegal in California.

[RELATED: Calif. county COs can strike after judge's decision limiting attendance]

County officials said they would continue to work with the union to prevent a strike.

The union and county legal teams have gone back and forth over how to staff the jail in the event of a strike, union officials said. The union maintains deputies can run the jail, citing deputies’ job descriptions. County officials said deputies aren’t trained to properly manage the jail, an argument accepted by the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

The union acknowledged using deputies to run the jail would cost the county more money since deputies are paid more.

“But isn’t that the point of a strike?” the union said in its news release. “The association thinks it is.”

A Fresno Superior Court judge will hear arguments to the staffing issue June 16.

Union officials said they are optimistic the union will prevail in the matter, which will allow for more members to strike.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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